Fall has many charms: colorful changing leaves. Pumpkin spice lattes. Cozy sweaters. And Fat Bear Week, a competition hosted by Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska to determine just which of its many brown bears has been most successful at plumping up and gorging on salmon over the summer in preparation for five months of winter hibernation — and, of course, will win the important title of “Fattest Bear.”
Each day on the Katmai Facebook page, bears are matched in an extensive bracket. The bear with the most likes advances to the next round. Only one bear, by Oct. 9, will be crowned “Fattest Bear” for 2018; this is the fourth annual running of this competition. While Katmai is home to thousands of bears, only 12 get to be part of the Fat Bear Week bracket — because they’re known for loving the attention. Well, sort of: they appear most regularly on a livestream that the park hosts, which means that viewers from around the world are already familiar with some of these creatures, their personalities and (eating) habits. So far, 409 Beadnose and 854 Divot bested their respective competitors (151 Walker and 503) and will move on to remain in the competition.
When it comes to voting, beauty (and size) is really in the eye of the beholder. Park ranger Andrew LaValle says it’s up to the public to choose their criteria for selecting the plumpest. “Does that mean clearance with the ground? Number of rolls? Neck flab? It’s up to you!” he told The Guardian.
This is a salmon-fueled beauty pageant based on real, well, substance — and we can all be on board. Check out some of the dramatic bear transformations in the park’s tweets below.